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[December 02, 2013]
The fab of the future [Times Union, Albany, N.Y.]
(Times Union (Albany, NY) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Dec. 02--ALBANY -- The $45 billion computer-chip manufacturing operation that the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering wants to build outside Utica would be unlike any other in the world.
According to plans submitted recently to the Army Corps of Engineers, the NanoCollege wants to build three mega factories, or fabs, each with more than 1.8 million square feet of space.
Because the site the NanoCollege controls next to the State University of New York Institute of Technology is essentially located on a hill that includes a 175-foot change in elevation, the complex, which will also include a research and development center and office buildings, will be built on four separate terraces.
Special overhead conveyor rail systems will move batches of silicon wafers between buildings connected by enclosed bridges.
The futuristic design and close proximity of buildings is needed because the factories that the NanoCollege wants to build will make chips on larger, heavier wafers than those used in today's computer chip factories.
At 450 millimeters in diameter -- about 18 inches across -- the new wafers will be heavier and more fragile than today's wafers, which are about 12 inches across.
The larger wafers, which move through the clean room in batches of 25 encased in special containers, will need to be handled by robots instead of humans.
The NanoCollege is working with the five largest chip manufacturers and their suppliers in Albany designing and testing equipment for that will be needed for 450 mm wafer factories in a five-year, $4.8 billion program called the Global 450 Consortium, or G450C. The testing is being done using a pilot manufacturing line that companies like Intel, Samsung and GlobalFoundries are running inside NanoFab X, the $365 million boxlike building that sits next to Interstate 90. And like what's being planned for the Marcy site, wafers travel to NanoFab X across a bridge on an overhead rail system.
Two months ago, the NanoCollege announced that it would build up to three 450 mm fabs on a 400-acre site called the Marcy Nanocenter it owns next to SUNY-IT in Marcy. The announcement was shocking because academic institutions typically do not get into the manufacturing business.
But the plans submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers, part of an application for a federal wetlands permit, make it clear the NanoCollege is planning a new kind of chip factory that will be run by the college as a "microchip foundry" that does contract manufacturing for industry and government customers that don't own their own factories or don't want to spend the $15 billion required for a 450 mm fab.
Because of the cost, these new 450 mm fabs will likely need to be built using a combination of both private funding and state dollars, although in exchange, the state will own the factories, NanoCollege officials have explained, using the model the NanoCollege uses for its research and development programs.
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